To say 2020 has upended our lives and our usual routines would obviously be a huge understatement. But the enforced pause has also created space for exploring new ways to improve our health and well-being. And in many cases, that means rediscovering the wisdom of ancient traditions rather than leaving ourselves beholden to modern medicine.
One woman who is already well-versed in the benefits of age-old healing systems is Katie Brindle, founder of wellness and beauty brand Hayo’u. “Hayo’u is the culmination of a journey I started in 1992,” Brindle says, referring to the year she was injured in a car accident that ended her plans to become an opera singer. “Because Western medicine wasn’t able to sort out the problem, I found myself drawn into the world of alternative therapies. After much searching and further health issues, Chinese medicine finally nailed the issue once and for all. This was with a combination of qigong, gua sha and just the knowledge of how to balance my body.”
Brindle went on to study acupuncture and Chinese medicine, and set up a private clinic after graduation. “Over time I started to notice that when people followed the self-care treatments I prescribed them fastidiously, their outcome was exponentially better than those who just came in once a week to have acupuncture,” she says.
After becoming more and more convinced by the transformative power of Chinese medicine, she set out to create products and tools people could use at home. “Hayo’u is based on the word hao, which means ‘good’ in Mandarin. But it’s also a play on ‘Hey, you’, because you are the hero of the brand,” Brindle says. “The whole idea of the method is that we enable you to master your own health.”
Brindle’s idea was to start with “something simple but enormously effective”: a jade gua sha tool she calls the Hayo’u Beauty Restorer. She has since added a rose quartz gua sha, slim-tipped jade gua sha, stainless steel body gua sha, jade comb, bamboo body tapper, and a range of bath products and oils to be used with the tools.
The products soon attracted the attention of Newby Hands, global beauty director for Net-A-Porter, also a gua sha aficionado. “I discovered Katie and her brand via Instagram and was later introduced to her. She’s so inspiring, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person and have a session with her demonstrating the basic techniques of how to gua sha,” Hands says. “The fact that Katie has been a Chinese medicine practitioner for many years adds real credibility to her range.”
Indeed, Brindle didn’t stop at creating tools and body oils. She also created the Hayo’u Method, a series of simple self-care rituals that we need now more than ever. “Like never before, Chinese medicine deserves to be centre stage in the world healthcare arena. It offers a sophisticated way of considering the patient as a whole—energetically, physically, mentally and spiritually,” she insists. “It’s about prevention alongside cure, about finding and treating the root cause as opposed to just the symptoms. Plus, most of the self-care techniques are really pleasurable and enjoyable!”
Here she shares her favourite ways to integrate Chinese medicine and its healing properties into your own life.
Gua sha is a therapeutic healing technique that has been widely practised in China for thousands of years. It involves using a round-edged tool, traditionally made from materials such as jade or metal, to press-stroke the skin until redness appears. It’s been shown to increase microcirculation by 400%, clear inflammation and increase immunity. Gua sha is also renowned for maintaining and strengthening the constitution and even improving your sleep.
For facial gua sha, here’s a super-quick exercise to wake up your face. Take a jade gua sha tool such as our Hayo’u Beauty Restorer into the shower and use the water as a lubricant. Simply press-stroke gently all over your face for about a minute:
You can repeat this technique before bed, using oil. Many people, myself included, do it in the morning in the shower and then a longer treatment in the evening before bed.
You should wait for any sha (redness) to subside before you re-treat that area. On the face, any flush you get should subside pretty quickly, so for almost everybody this treatment is suitable on a daily basis. With body gua sha, when you start, there is often a lot of heat to clear so you may get sha that takes a few days to subside. This is a really positive sign but do wait until it’s clear before you treat again.
Body combing is a therapeutic healing technique used to rebalance and heal the body. Chinese medicine believes that disease and health issues start at an energetic level, with a disruption of energy flow around the body. When you practice body combing, you stimulate the smooth flow of energy. Technique isn’t so important here, it’s doing it that counts. But this is a good suggestion if you’d like direction:
Body combing not only clears areas of stagnation but can also reduce cortisol, support the digestive system, and get rid of fat deposits and cellulite.
Our lives are more sedentary than ever before. But, there’s one incredibly easy way to get your circulation moving (even when you’re sitting down) and this is tapping. So, tap regularly all over your body, every day. You can use a loosely clenched fist, or a bamboo tapper to help you reach all over your back and tap more efficiently. I suggest you tap for at least a minute in the morning and evening, and throughout the day if you’re feeling sluggish.
To support immunity, focus on the thymus gland (behind the breastbone), abdomen and sides of the body near the lower ribs. It’s also a good idea to tap before and after vigorous exercise, to reduce the stress hormones created by high-intensity workouts.
Qigong is, quite simply, the ultimate self-healing technique. It was invented as a dynamic meditation, to allow Taoist masters to keep their muscles relaxed, supple and strong after hours of sitting meditation but without breaking their focus. By learning to manipulate qi around the body, you rejuvenate and energise, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and support your immune system.
Qigong is suitable for everyone, you can even do a form of it if you are bed-bound. As with any new exercise, if you’re concerned, you could ask your GP before you start. But just start gently and go at your own pace. I’m hosting regular qigong sessions on Instagram and there’s a wealth of information in my book, Yang Sheng: The Art of Chinese Self-Healing.
We’re also about to launch a new fitness and well-being programme based in qigong practices and Chinese self-care techniques, so watch this space…